Tag Archives: Caregiver

How to Prevent People in Nursing Homes from Becoming Invisible?

People in care can often feel invisible.

People living in nursing homes become “invisible” when they are regarded as feeble-minded and lacking in the ability to contribute to society in a meaningful way.

I once met a man named Frank, who lived in a skilled nursing facility, and his memory still haunts me. I noticed him because he wasn’t particularly old, and he was tall and muscular. He was sitting in a corner in the hallway near the nurses’ station. By his appearance, it seemed he had suffered a stroke.   The following day I noticed Frank sitting in the same spot– for hours, just sitting there.  He had no real interaction with anyone and pushed restlessly on the wheelchair footrests. He couldn’t propel the wheelchair himself. Lots of people passed by, but no one paid him much mind. To me, he seemed lonely, frustrated, and, yes, invisible.

I felt drawn to offer him a Compassionate Touch. I pulled up a chair introducing myself. He immediately looked me in the eye. He had trouble with language, but he could, with effort, carry on a conversation. A Vietnam veteran, Frank grew up in Illinois. He believed his age to be 37, moreover, other signs of confusion were there, too.  I held his stroke-affected hand. He was receptive to the touch. I gently rubbed his shoulders and back, and he told me it felt good.

At the end of our time together I asked him if he would like to sit somewhere else. He pointed to a spot about six feet away that was near a table, so, I maneuvered his wheelchair around so he could reach the table with his hands. He reached out took hold of a newspaper, and proceeded to read it. He engaged in something purposeful.  The restlessness stopped.   As I left, he said, “thank you for stopping.”

Frank still haunts me. He likely sat in that same corner spot the next day, invisible again. So, how do we prevent people like Frank from becoming “invisible”? In closing, Alisoun Milne, a gerontology academic in the UK, tells us, “There is evidence that well-trained staff can build up relationships with residents that help to reduce reliance on medication and the need for acute medical care. Because the more you know about the person in that chair, the more likely you are to see them as rounded human beings, and the less risk there is of neglect.”

Ann Catlin, OTR, LMT: For twenty years, Ann led in the field of skilled touch in eldercare and hospice. She has nearly forty years’ clinical experience as an occupational and massage therapist. She created Age-u-cate’s Compassionate Touch program and serves as a Master Trainer and training consultant.

Alzheimer’s Disease: What Would Maslow Say?

Human needs remain intact regardless of age, situation, or condition.

Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist who taught that survival needs must come before social or spiritual needs. Alzheimer’s disease impacts all these needs, for instance, as in a woman named Faye.

The need for physical survival. Faye relied on caregivers to assist with physical needs. 

The need to have personal security and to feel safe.  Faye didn’t recall recent events, so she didn’t realize where she was. Memories of past experience faded.

The need for a sense of belonging and connection to others. Faye had been active in her church.  The move to a nursing home separated her from familiar people and consequently became withdrawn and anxious.

The need to express feelings and have them acknowledged.  Alzheimer’s decreases a person’s ability to express thoughts. Faye was frustrated because care-partners didn’t understand her.

The need to give to others and to be treated with respect.  We all need to feel useful. We thrive with mutual understanding and respect.  However, people with Alzheimer’s may believe they have nothing to contribute.

The need for a sense of self and a connection to spirit. Many assume that Alzheimer’s robs people of their identity.  Although memory and cognition become impaired, it appears that the person living with dementia seems to retain a sense of self—the essence of who he or she is.

In conclusion, understanding human needs may help us to be a little more empathetic with people living with Alzheimer’s disease.

Ann Catlin, OTR, LMT: For twenty years, Ann led in the field of skilled touch in eldercare and hospice. She has nearly forty years’ clinical experience as an occupational and massage therapist. She created Age-u-cate’s Compassionate Touch program and serves as a Master Trainer and training consultant.

What Would Life be Like if You were a Resident for a Day?

What would life be like if you stepped into the world of a resident in long-term care?   Perhaps it would awaken us to the fact that they see things much differently than we do.  Maybe it would make us understand their experiences, challenges, and thought processes.  Do you think that we might be more empathetic?  Gosh, I hope so.

Let’s look at what being a resident for a day might teach us. 

Waking up to a room that is not “mine” is frightening.  It reminds me that I’m not in my home anymore where I felt secure and loved.

No one ever referred to me as honey.  I don’t like to be called honey.  I have a name – one that I’ve had all my life.  Please call me by my REAL name!

Those loud noises scare the daylights out of me!  I’ve never liked sirens, and I feel like that’s all I hear – ALL day long.

Contrary to what you may believe, getting naked and having someone help me bathe myself is not normal.  I feel like I’m on display.  Yes, it makes me anxious and this is sometimes why I just don’t want to take a shower!

For that matter,  having someone change my diapers is about 10 times more embarrassing as getting naked.

Eating with people I don’t know is not my idea of enjoying a meal.  Where’s my glass of wine?  And goodness sakes, I’ve never liked peas and not about to start liking them now.  So please, dear, don’t ask me to finish up my vegetables.  It’s not going to happen.

Don’t take this personally, but all these activities won’t make me less bored.  What would make me less bored is being able to do something I actually enjoy – like tending a garden or some ballroom dancing or designing bridges as I did in my career.   Now, these are things I still LOVE to do.  I don’t like playing bingo.  I’ll never like playing bingo.  Not EVER.

Now that you see the world through a different lens, can you see what being a resident for a day might teach us?

It will help us understand the feelings of emptiness and loss they are experiencing.

It might give us a perspective of dignity and how important that is to what makes us feel whole and complete.

Perhaps it will open our eyes to the fact that, despite their frailty, illness or state of mind, that they have interests, and it might not be anything like someone else’s and that’s okay.  We just need to tap into what it is that makes them smile.

Maybe you will see that feeling secure and respected by their care partners can actually bring a new relationship that is meaningful for both of you.

Being a resident for a day may not be easy, but it will certainly open our eyes to empathy, understanding and new perspectives that will improve the care we deliver.

Pam Brandon is President and Founder of AGE-u-cate® Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those who serve them.  She is the creator of the Dementia Live® simulation and awareness program and co-directed the development of the Compassionate Touch® skilled touch program, both being implemented by care provider internationally.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Renewal, Rebirth and Regrowth…Hope for Caregivers

Despite our disappointments, struggles, and unknowns, we must cling to hope – for renewal, rebirth, and regrowth.  This season brings hope as we witness new blossoms, trees budding and renewed faith.  Caregivers need to above all, cling to their hope that this journey you are on will bring new blessings, opportunities for personal growth, and strength to carry on your important work.

I certainly know from personal experience that this is not easy, and the journey is often long, hard and often anything but hopeful.   I have a dear friend now who is going through the depths of darkness in her own caregiving journey with her husband and life partner who is losing his battle with stage 4 glioblastoma.  Being there as a friend, mentor, confidant and soundboard is probably one of the most helpful roles I can play right now.  I certainly cannot fix today, but I can lend small nugget of hope and assurance to her that she needs to get through today and the difficulties that she may face tomorrow.

As caregivers, we belong to a larger community.  When we connect with others we can lend that ear, or hug, or shoulder to cry on or laugh with.  When we do that for others, we offer one another the assurance that they are not alone on this often lonely journey.

This simple message today is to encourage all of you to reach out- to a family member, neighbor, friend, colleague, or even a stranger.  We all know someone struggling.   Just your presence can brighten another’s day, whether they are caring for someone else or themselves.  Just your presence, warm smile and a gentle touch can lend strength to another in ways that are often immeasurable.

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older and adults and those who serve them.  www.AGEucate.com